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Welsh honey producers take next generation of bee farmers under their wings

As World Bee Day approaches (May 20th) the next generation of apicultural talent is being nurtured by bee farmers in Wales through the offering of apprenticeships.

Designated by the United Nations, World Bee Day acknowledges the role of bees and other pollinators in sustainable development, food security, and biodiversity.

The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Anton Janša, an 18th-century Slovenian apiarist who is acknowledged as the pioneer of beekeeping.

Welsh honey is in demand, and according to the National Bee Unit’s BeeBase there were almost 4,000 beekeeper registrations from Wales in 2022. Also, last year (2023) the Bee Farmers’ Association recorded some 51 registrations from Wales.

Two Welsh honey businesses – Gwenyn Gruffydd Ltd and Border Honey – are currently training apprentices, who will then take up full-time posts.

Both businesses are members of the Food & Drink Wales Honey Cluster, part of the Welsh Government’s Clustering initiative which fosters connections between businesses in the sector.

Honey Cluster Lead Haf Wyn Hughes said, “The Honey Cluster is dedicated to raising the profile and production of Welsh honey and bringing together bee farmers with a business vision and an ambition to grow.

“This is precisely what Border Honey and Gwenyn Gruffydd Ltd are doing in Wales by their forward-looking and ambitious approach. By offering apprenticeships, they are nurturing the next generation of bee farmers – vital to the Welsh honey sector and protecting the honeybee environment.

“I have worked alongside both companies over the years through the Honey Cluster, and it is wonderful to see them grow their enterprises and become employers. They work incredibly hard and are determined to drive the Welsh honey sector forward. Their work in the beekeeping and honey sector is inspiring, and the Honey Cluster is there to provide support, where possible, for them and all our members.”

The Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca Davies, said, “Bees are crucial to maintaining the environmental sustainability of our planet, and it is fitting that as World Bee Day approaches, we celebrate the work and achievements of the Welsh honey sector. Providing work and training opportunities, such as apprenticeships, for the next generation of beekeepers is vital in helping the sector meet the growing demand for Welsh honey.”


Gwenyn Gruffydd Ltd apprentice Andy Stead had his first taste of honey production as a newly graduated Aberystwyth University student when he spent time working at Wainwright’s Bee Farm.

Originally from London, Andy moved back to England to pursue a career in sales, but he hankered after working with bees – and decided to come back to Wales and pursue a career in bee farming.

Gruff Rees & Andy Stead

“I gained some experience in honey processing when working at Wainwrights, but I hadn’t worked with bees. I did a training day at Gwenyn Gruffydd, and when I heard about the apprenticeship, I thought it’s now or never,” says Andy (34), who now lives with his family in Pembrokeshire.

“I’m in the second month of my three-year apprenticeship, and it is going really well. It is good to see the scale of things and how different bee farming is from hobbyist, and Gruff and Angharad are so passionate about producing high-quality honey and quality bees.”

Gruff and Angharad Rees started their business in 2010 as complete novices with two hives. They now have 400 located around Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, which contain two types of bees – the native Welsh Black and Buckfast.

“Membership of the Honey Cluster has helped our business grow massively to become a full-time business”, Gruff says.

The business’s growth has stimulated the need for extra help, and with Andy, the enterprise supports four full-time staff.

Says Gruff, “We are rare in having staff, and it is super rare to have an apprentice as most bee farms are a one-person band and too small to employ people. We knew we needed someone and got in touch with the Bee Farmers Association, which runs an apprenticeship scheme. We advertised through our social media, and received around seven applications.

“As a business operating within the ARFOR* area, we’ve been fortunate to get support through the Llwyddo’n Lleol 2050 Gyrfaol Initiative to help fund Andy’s role for the first 12 months, and we’re fortunate for the Honey Cluster’s guidance to build the business further.

“There is a huge demand for UK honey, and we have got a great opportunity. There is a real market for producing ‘a taste of Wales in a jar’.”